Europa's Fairy Book [European Folk and Fairy Tales] | Annotated Tale

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Earl of Cattenborough, The

ONCE upon a time there was a miller who had three sons, Charles, Sam, and John. And every night when the servant went to bed he used to call out:

               "Good-night, Missus; good-night, Master; Good-night, Charles, Sam, John."

               Now after a time the miller's wife died, and, soon after, the miller, leaving only the mill, the donkey, and the cat. And Charles, as the eldest, took the mill, and Sam took the donkey and went off with it, and John was left with only the cat.

               Now how do you think the cat used to help John to live? She used to take a bag with a string around the top and place it with some cheese in the bushes, and when a hare or a partridge would come and try to get the piece of cheese--snap! Miss Puss would draw the string and there was the hare or partridge for Master Jack to eat. One day two hares happened to rush into the bag at the same time. So the cat, after giving one to Jack, took the other and went with it to the King's palace. And when she came outside the palace gate she cried out, "Miaou."

               The sentry at the gate came to see what was the matter. Miss Puss gave him the hare with a bow and said: "Give this to the King with the compliments of the Earl of Cattenborough."

               The King liked jugged hare very much and was glad to get such a fine present.

               Shortly after this Miss Puss found a gold coin rolling in the dirt. And she went up to the palace and asked the sentry if he would lend her a corn measure.

               The sentry asked who wanted it. And Puss said: "My Master, the Earl of Cattenborough."

               So the sentry gave her the corn measure. And a little while afterwards she took it back with the gold coin, which she had found, fixed in a crack in the corn measure.

               So the King was told that the Earl of Cattenborough measured his gold in a corn measure. When the King heard this he told the sentry that if such a thing happened again he was to deliver a message asking the Earl to come and stop at the palace.

               Some time after the cat caught two partridges, and took one of them to the palace. And when she called out, "Miaou," and presented it to the sentry, in the name of the Earl of Cattenborough, the sentry told her that the King wished to see the Earl at his palace.

               So Puss went back to Jack and said to him: "The King desires to see the Earl of Cattenborough at his palace."

               "What is that to do with me?" said Jack.

               "Oh, you can be the Earl of Cattenborough if you like. I'll help you."

               "But I have no clothes, and they'll soon find out what I am when I talk."

               "As for that," said Miss Puss, "I'll get you proper clothes if you do what I tell you; and when you come to the palace I will see that you do not make any mistakes."

               So next day she told Jack to take off his clothes and hide them under a big stone and dip himself into the river. And while he was doing this she went up to the palace gate and said: "Miaou, miaou, miaou!"

               And when the sentry came to the gate she said: "My Master, the Earl of Cattenborough, has been robbed of all he possessed, even of his clothes, and he is hiding in the bramble bush by the side of the river. What is to be done? What is to be done?"

               The sentry went and told the King. And the King gave orders that a suitable suit of clothes, worthy of an Earl, should be sent to Master Jack, who soon put them on and went to the King's palace accompanied by Puss. When they got there they were introduced into the chamber of the King, who thanked Jack for his kind presents.

               Miss Puss stood forward and said: "My Master, the Earl of Cattenborough, desires to state to your Majesty that there is no need of any thanks for such trifles."

               The King thought it was very grand of Jack not to speak directly to him, and summoned his lord chamberlain, and from that time onward only spoke through him. Thus, when they sat down to dinner with the Queen and the Princess, the King would say to his chamberlain, "Will the Earl of Cattenborough take a potato?"

               Whereupon Miss Puss would bow and say: "The Earl of Cattenborough thanks his Majesty and would be glad to partake of a potato."

               The King was so much struck by Jack's riches and grandeur, and the Princess was so pleased with his good looks and fine dress that it was determined that he should marry the Princess.

               But the King thought he would try and see if he were really so nobly born and bred as he seemed. So he told his servants to put a mean truckle bed in the room in which Jack was to sleep, knowing that no noble would put up with such a thing.

               When Miss Puss saw this bed she at once guessed what was up. And when Jack began to undress to get into bed, she made him stop, and called the attendants to say that he could not sleep in such a bed.

               So they took him into another bedroom, where there was a fine four-poster with a dais, and everything worthy of a noble to sleep upon. Then the King became sure that Jack was a real noble, and married him soon to his daughter the Princess.

               After the wedding feast was over the King told Jack that he and the Queen and the Princess would come with him to his castle of Cattenborough, and Jack did not know what to do. But Miss Puss told him it would be all right if he only didn't speak much while on the journey. And that suited Jack very well.

               So they all set out in a carriage with four horses, and with the King's life-guards riding around it. But Miss Puss ran on in front of the carriage, and when she came to a field where men were mowing down the hay she pointed to the life-guards riding along, and said: "Men, if you do not say that this field belongs to the Earl of Cattenborough those soldiers will cut you to pieces with their swords."

               So when the carriage came along the King called one of the men to the side of it and said, "Whose is this field?"

               And the man said, "It belongs to the Earl of Cattenborough."

               And the King turned to his son-in-law and said, "I did not know that you had estates so near us."

               And Jack said, "I had forgotten it myself."

               And this only confirmed the King in his idea about Jack's great wealth.

               A little farther on there was another great field in which men were raking hay. And Miss Puss spoke to them as before. So, when the carriage came up, they also declared that this field belonged to the Earl of Cattenborough. And so it went on through the whole drive. Then the King said, "Let us now go to your castle."

               Then Jack looked at Miss Puss, and she said: "If your Majesty will but wait an hour I will go on before and order the castle to be made ready for you."

               With that she jumped away and went to the castle of a great ogre and asked to see him. When she came into his presence she said:

               "I have come to give you warning. The King with all his army is coming to the castle and will batter its walls down and kill you if he finds you here."

               "What shall I do? What shall I do?" said the ogre.

               "Is there no place where you can hide yourself?"

               "I am too big to hide," said the ogre, "but my mother gave me a powder, and when I take that I can make myself as small as I like."

               "Well, why not take it now?" said the cat.

               And with that he took the powder and shrunk into a little body no bigger than a mouse. And thereupon Miss Puss jumped upon him and ate him all up, and then went down into the great yard of the castle and told the guards that it now belonged to her Master the Earl of Cattenborough. Then she ordered them to open the gates and let in the King's carriage, which came along just then.

               The King was delighted to find what a fine castle his son-in-law possessed, and left his daughter the Princess with him at the castle while he drove back to his own palace. And Jack and the Princess lived happily in the castle.

               But one day Miss Puss felt very ill and lay down as if dead, and the chamberlain of the castle went to Jack and said:

               "My lord, your cat is dead."

               And Jack said: "Well, throw her out on the dunghill."

               But Miss Puss, when she heard it, called out: "Had you not better throw me into the mill stream?"

               And Jack remembered where he had come from and was frightened that the cat would say. So he ordered the physician of the castle to attend to her, and ever after gave her whatever she wanted.

               And when the King died he succeeded him, and that was the end of the Earl of Cattenborough.


This Puss-in-Boots formula has become universally European from Perrault's version, to whom we owe the boots that occur in no other version, so that I have been reluctantly obliged to take them off. But apart from this the story in its entirety existed earlier in Straparola, xi., 1, and in the Pentamerone, and is found widely spread through Italy (Pitre, 88; Imbriani, 10; Gonzenbach, 65, etc.), as well as in Hungary (Jones and Kropf, No. 1), Germany (Grimm, 33a), and even in Finland (see Jones and Kropf, p. 305). In some of these cases the cat is a vixen (or female fox), and the incident of the false bathing and the marriage occurs before reaching the ogre's castle, as is indeed more natural. I have, therefore, so far amended Perrault. In most of the folk versions the miller's son betrays ingratitude towards his animal protector, who sometimes reduces him to his original state. This final incident, unknown to Perrault, shows the independence of these versions from that contained in his Mother Goose Stories. In Sweden the hero, if one may speak Hibernically, is a girl, who turns up her nose at everything in the palace as not being so good as in her castle of Cattenburg (Thorpe quoted by Lang, Perrault, p. lxxi.). In India it is found in Day, Folk Tales of Bengal, under the title of "The Matchmaking Jackal," which has numerous Indian touches; thus the jackal remembers the grandeur of the weaver's forefathers and rolls himself in betel leaves. Sultan Darai, in the Swahili version (Steere), has the stripping incident and the no-talking trick, as well as the ingratitude at end. Lang argues elaborately that it is impossible to determine the original home of Puss-in-Boots, though he seems to own that it had one. His criterion is the absence or presence of a moral in the story, in this case the incident showing the ingratitude of the Marquis. This occurs, as we have seen, as far south as Madagascar, and as far east as India, but, after all, does not seem to be the essence of the story, though in one of the versions the cat does his tricks for the miller because he had previously saved him from the hunters. The late Mr. Ralston has an interesting article on Puss-in-Boots in the Nineteenth Century, August, 1883, though in his days there was a tendency to explain all fairy tales as variants of the Sun and Moon myths.

               It is right that I should add that the servant's evening salute has nothing to do with the story but is a tradition in my own family, where my grandfather's servant used to utter this rhyme in a sort of chant when bidding the family good-night.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Earl of Cattenborough, The
Tale Author/Editor: Jacobs, Joseph
Book Title: Europa's Fairy Book [European Folk and Fairy Tales]
Book Author/Editor: Jacobs, Jopseh
Publisher: G. P. Putnam's Sons
Publication City: New York
Year of Publication: 1916
Country of Origin: Europe
Classification: ATU 545B: The Cat Castle

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